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February 12, 2006


Fabius Maximus

What, are we ruled by invaders from another star?

We elected them. If they are idiots, then so are we.

Perhaps we are too lazy to find and elect competant people. Then as sheep we should expect to be ruled by predators.


Best quote, paraphrase of Roberts: "The president has an authority that rises above the law."

John Robb

Perhaps democracy doesn't scale.

John Robb

It was also a visceral reaction to what I heard. My blog is often a reflection of emotions I feel at the moment and not just cold hearted analysis (which is great but of little use in a world dominated by spin and factions).

Jason Lefkowitz

"Perhaps democracy doesn't scale."

This is actually something I've wondered a lot about.

The average member of the House of Representatives has a constituency today of around 700,000 people. This would have been a mind-boggling amount to the Founders, who anticipated House districts being much smaller (and therefore closer to the people).

We can tell this because they said as much in the Constitution -- Article 1, Section 2:

"The Number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty Thousand, but each State shall have at Least one Representative..."

So the rule was that as the population grew, the House grew -- until 1911, when Congress simply fixed the size of the House at 435 members to avoid having to deal with the administrative consequences of the growing size of the body. Ever since then, House members' constituencies have been swelling to such a point that they are little different than the huge constituencies of Senators.

Given that modern communications technologies can enable large groups to function far more effeciently than they could in 1911, it might be very good for democracy to revisit that old decision about the size of the House...

John Robb

That's 10,000 members of the House. I like it!

If you take the big picture view of things, the same attributes that made it possible for big states to dominate the 20th Century now make them vulnerable.

Tim Fong

Don't hold back John, tell us how you really feel =)

Jason Lefkowitz

Yeah, if there were 10,000 Congresspeople running around the odds are you would know yours a lot better than you do now, eh?

Of course, you'd need some clever thinking to manage a deliberative body of 10,000 people. Maybe break it up into a set of regional Congresses that only meet in the "committee of the whole" virtually? Or have a committee that represents national interests while the others represent local interests?

Now I'm really going to commit heresy: the problem isn't that democracy doesn't scale. The problem is that *the Constitution* doesn't scale.


Um...a parliament with proportional representation of minority parties is the way to go. As long as we have winner-take-all, geographical representation, its easy for the DeLays of the world to be bought & paid for by big money interests.

Hell, its not even minority interests that are being squelched at this point. Majorities of the American people hold the left-liberal view on issues like say Iraq withdrawal, national healthcare, the Kyoto protocols, etc. but these issues are not "politically feasible" which means the elite interests oppose them therefore they won't happen.

Another alternative is if we had a genuine opposition party. The Democrats are basically a big-money party just like the Republicans. Most advanced industrialized democracies have some kind of Labor party...


Jason - Along the lines of what you're thinking, Benjamin Barber (of Jihad vs. McWorld fame) says a confederalized representative system would serve the political needs of McWorld (globalization) while still giving power to the various tribes in any nation state.

I think that may just be an interim step prolonging the time before tribalization/factionalization/whatever wins.

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